Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” (Psalm 137:7)
In the midst of Passion week, as we walk the final steps with our Lord feeling the weight of the Cross atop our shoulders and sensing the increasing tension, the world mocks what we purport to stand for. They shop for candy, baskets, and spring clothes without a sense of the sacrifice that the holiest of days represents and we are to blame. We often don’t live out what we say we believe.
If your faith is not being actively lived, today is the day to meditate on why. We should walk quietly in whatever circumstance God brings us, showing our faith as guiding our purpose. The absence of protest on our part will both warn and attract.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
The psalmist expresses his despair in Psalm 129 as he speaks of his (their) oppression from youth. His enemies have not given a moments rest in their persecution and he prays to God for their destruction. We can identify with these feelings so many centuries later. Who among us has not wished evil on someone else?
We’re often puzzled as we read near the crucifixion event when the crowds are given a choice to free Jesus or Barabbas and they choose the murderer. Were the crowds more evil than us? A better question for reflection today is whether or not we do the same thing in our daily life. Do we deny Christ in favor of something else? God knew our ways as He spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (vv 52:2-3)
Our Advent watch comes closer and closer to the glorious day on which the Lord came to redeem His beloved by His sacrifice. Isaiah’s prophecy is often read during this celebration and the praise songs of chapter 12 give us the perfect words to exclaim our worship. The pair of psalms is a wonderful call and response to our hearts. First we rehearse the great gift of salvation we are given by our God alone,
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. (v2)
With this promise and truth embedded in our hearts our attitudes turn to joy. We are freed from having to enable our own salvation. We do not have to work for it – we cannot work for it. God alone is the source of our salvation and Jesus alone is our Savior. This truth becomes a well from which we can draw living water into our lives on a moment by moment basis. Whenever we feel dry, the well is available. We can draw up the bucket of God’s strength and our joy will be revived.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done, and prolcaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you. (vv 3-6)
Say it. Shout it. Tell the world, the Lord has Come!
Nearly one full week of this glorious Lenten season has passed and many feel the pangs from the sacrifice of chocolate or television but what of those who have sacrificed their life, the control of their soul given fully to the King of Kings. Isaiah speaks of the sacrifice of Christ, the King James version best translating the Hebrew word for soul where the NIV and others insert life:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (Isa 53:10)
The sacrifice of the soul was damnation and yet He gave of it joyfully, trusting fully in the Father’s divine plan. Brothers and sisters, we too must give of ourselves all the way down to our soul. We often give of our time, our treasure, our bodies even but we protect our soul, preferring to keep it under our own control. Release it! Trust in the Father and the sacrifice of the Lord. We have nothing to lose and the Kingdom to give. As we move towards the Cross and the Resurrection, give up not your feasting but the control of your soul to the Father. He will raise us all up in the end.
Just seeing the words in the title triggers an immediate, visceral response in follower of Christ who has been around the church for more than a single Advent. It immediately brings to mind the carol in all of its brooding minor keys. Singing that difficult song produces a unique feeling; the melody and notes take you instantly to a high church-ancient reverence as you intone the plea of so many before you – Come Immanuel – Come God With Us!
In many churches this week, the Scripture readings included this well known verse from Isaiah:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isa 7:14)
The promise of the Prince of Peace and the Everlasting Father as the righting of the world. How we long for that.
The hope that arrives in the newborn baby.
Advent is a season of anticipation with weekly or daily reminders of what is to come. Our eyes and hearts rarely turn backward during this period; we are focused in hope on the birth of the Savior. His coming into the world restores our sometimes shaky faith and dispels the feeling that God might have left us to our self-created rewards here in the world. To know that the Wonderful Counselor will walk with us once again, as the Father walked with Adam, is to be given the greatest gift of all. Our hopes for the shoring up of the crumbling walls of the city, the banishment of our enemies, the restoration of vision that Bartimaeus, all will be made right with the One who created and sustains it:
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:3-5)
Advent reminds us that our hope lies in one thing, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Only the most calloused heart can hear these words sung to those familiar chords and not be thankful for the Hand that extends the grace necessary to pluck the sinking from the waves that threaten at any moment to permanently take them under. When Jesus announced his ministry to those enslaved by the burdens of the law, He gave meaning to the “good news”;
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:17-18)
As Arlo says here, “we can’t be afraid to turn around…and do the right thing.”